Those responsible for selling this country's "grandfather rights" to slots at Heathrow Airport in London, England in 2007 for £5 million must be held accountable, says Government Minister Ganga Singh.
It was Singh, as the former member of Parliament for the Caroni East constituency at a Parliament sitting in 2007, who brought the sale of the slots to the public's attention.
Five years ago Singh had called for an investigation into the sale of the slots, saying they were undervalued when compared to the prices other airlines were paying for prime slots at Heathrow.
Last year, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar commissioned a three-man team to investigate the sale, comprising Justice Roger Hamel-Smith, economist Jwala Rambarran, now Central Bank Governor, and Dr Bijan Vasigh. Hamel-Smith stepped down, citing personal work overload, and Rabarran assumed the committee's chairmanship.
Yesterday, Singh told the Express that he felt vindicated by the forensic audit report which was completed in May this year and submitted to the Cabinet. The Express understands that the report will be laid in Parliament.
"The report vindicates the position I took in 2007...the former PNM administration really sold the crown jewels of BWIA, its Heathrow slots, for a beggarly sum...that has always been our position and today it subjects our travelling public in Trinidad and Tobago and other customers to a major inconvenience of having to go through the Gatwick hub, some two hours away from Heathrow," said Singh.
"And therefore those who acted recklessly and irrationally with our airline's crown jewels ought to be made accountable."
The forensic report recommended that a special Parliament sitting be convened for those culpable in the sale to give answers and also that it be forwarded to the Attorney General for further investigations.
The report, which was exclusively obtained by the Express, noted that at the time the slots were sold an Open Skies Agreement was in the works which ended decades of regulation of transatlantic flights and allows European airlines to fly between any destination within the European Union (EU) to any destination in the United States, while allowing US airlines to fly from any destination in the United States to any destination within the European Union. The agreement also increased the value of slots at Heathrow.